He roughs up my hair before showing me his calloused hand. "Left handed," he explains. "Everything always smeared."
I look down at my right hand, another reminder that I'm more like my mother than anyone else in the world. When I sneak a glance at her, she's glaring at the wall, smoking a cigarette in the house when I know it's against the rules she made up.
"Whatcha drawing?" He taps the picture, just an array of superheroes with capes and magical powers I'm not supposed to like. When he sees it, he goes quiet.
The silence makes my mom come over. I am every way like her.
I try to grab the picture to crumble it up, but her fingertips pin it down, her nails scraping the wood table in a chalking scratch. Goose bumps slide up my arms, and she picks up the thrown-together sketch. Her lips thin.
"Adam." Whenever she says my name, she says it like it's a sinful word, even though she named me after an old godly text. "What's this?"
"A superhero." There's no point in lying, not really. Not if you're bad at it.
She rips the paper in half, and something inside me hurts. "I told you, I don't want you reading comic books."
"You can't stop him from doing everything, Lorraine," my dad says, but she inhales her cigarette as if preparing her lungs for battle.
"They're propaganda and lies." She hates the army more than anything. Says the war tore her family apart, especially Uncle Cal. "You want your son reading that?"
I speak for him. "I like them." What she hurt inside me has now snapped. "They're like me."
If I thought I knew silence before, I was a fool to the silence I hear now. Even the hum of our dying heater seems to die out, tinkering away at the suffocating pressure now filling our kitchen. My dad straightens, and my mother drops her cigarette. The only part of reality proving time has not, in fact, stood still is the tendril of smoke curling up from the floor. The smell fills my nostrils, but my face burns for another reason.
I've told them what my best friend Jimmy explained to me over two comic books. A bad blood. A freak. But at least we were the same as superheroes. He only had the chance to show me two, but I knew he was my third superhero, and because of him, I could be the fourth one. But my parents look at me like I am not a superhero at all. I am a villain. And I know I'll disappear, too.
"What..." My mom chokes. Actually chokes. "You mean you like them, right, Adam? You like how powerful they are? How heroic they are? Manly?"
She rambles off a bunch of words I've never heard her use toward comic books before. Normally she calls them trashy propaganda, the glorification of violence, the dumb man's tale.
I shake my head, but my dad grabs my shoulder, digging his fingers into my collarbone like he can take my headshake back.
"That's exactly what he means, darling," he says, but Mom has gone pale, like she heard the opposite.
Before I know what's going on, she's rushing to the phone, and my father is standing up, and everyone is screaming, and the house seems to be breaking. I'm on the floor, and it takes me a minute to realize that my father has knocked me over when he rushed to his own feet. The back of my head hit the desk I was leaning against. My dad is opening drawers.
"Don't you call them, Lorraine." I've never heard him yell. Not once. "Don't you dare call them. He's our son!"
Of course I am, but Mom is crying. Hysterically.
YOU ARE READING
Bad Bloods PrequelTeen Fiction
Before the Bad Bloods novels, twenty-four homeless bad bloods had to find shelter and safety in a city set out to eradicate their kind. These are those origin stories.